The Women’s March on Montana: The Experience. From Crowds to a Rural Montana Bar

With estimates between 2.6 and 2.9 million women and men in attendance across the nation, the march is regarded as the largest protest in U.S  history. And, as NBC News points out, not a single arrest was needed. Peaceful is productive. Additionally, there were hundreds and hundreds of rallies worldwide. (Click here to see the amazing NYTimes gallery of global marches photos.) Millions of women and men are finally on board with the importance of feminism.

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The March in Montana was a profound experience. When we arrived at the Women’s March in Helena, the crowd of women and men was so massive it curved around up ahead beyond our sight. I got more of a sense of just how huge the protest was when a wave of momentous cheering came from somewhere far, far ahead and rippled through the crowed to where we stood. I couldn’t help but turning to my friends and saying “This is the positive revolution right here.” And it truly is, especially if we keep this momentum up.

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Photo credit: JuliaView. More photos below View

The sun hadn’t made it’s way out of the clouds for weeks and here it was warming up us protesters in the below freezing temperatures. The energy was amazing. The march began to move with signs bobbing up and down and people joyously coming together to celebrate ‘love trumping hate” and to stand up fiercely for ALL women’s rights. As the march turned the corner, my friends and I took to climbing the snow covered hill, our boots sinking into feet of snow, along with other marchers, to get a glimpse of the speakers with the magnificent Helena capitol building in the background. The speakers began with first acknowledging that we were standing on native ground. Speakers talked about women’s rights including bodily rights, freedom from rape, native rights, economic justice, black lives matter, LGBTQ, water protectors, access to good education, muslim rights and uniting all women and men. I looked around at the crowd of fierce women of all ages taking a stand, and at my amazing friends who had come with me. I especially appreciated that three of my best guy friends had been so excited to come out and show support with us. They were one of the thousands of men who marched in partnership.

After the march, the town of Helena was packed and it was impossible to find a place to eat so we stopped into a bar and grill in the middle of nowhere in between Helena and Missoula. We walked into the bar filled with very nice, yet thrown-off at seeing us, cowboys and men in snow work-pants and camouflage. I took my jacket off and sported my “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt and my Rosie the Riveter earrings without thinking about how funny it was I was rocking my feminism so proudly in such a bar: A rural area in the thick of Montana where, according to most voting trends, had most likely voted for Trump and might never have taken a second thought to think about why feminism might be important. More marchers ended up coming into the place, throwing off the original rural, isolated vibe.

Driving home with my friends sleeping in the backseat as I peered out at the snowy landscape with the sun peaking through the clouds in shades of tangerine,  I thought about how influential the moment was: Finally, women’s voices were being heard in massive protest. (One only has to look at the absence of women’s participation in history to gather the momentousness of the day.) Nearly 10,000 women and men turned out for the march in Helena, (6,000 more than projected) and nearly 500,000 women and men turned up in Washington D.C, and 2.6 million across the nation, to say: It is high time we have bodily rights, equal pay, freedom from rape and other violence, and the ability and right to participate fully and loudly in our own society. To say all people, women and men of all color, of all backgrounds, religious (and non-religious) affiliations, sexualities and gender identities, all have inalienable rights that need respect. To paraphrase one of the speakers at the rally “We need to look at our neighbors and say, ‘I see you and I honor you.'”

We are a community of humans: The experience made my heart feel full to the brim with, you guessed it, LOVE. Love is such a fundamental driving factor in humans which creates such immeasurable beauty we should not be afraid of being “cheesy” and instead say “Yes. I’ve got a lot of love for y’all fellow humans, ALL of you, and we’re all in this together. So I’m going to act with love.” Throughout the march, I thought especially of my loving mother and my grandmothers.

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(Photo credit: JuliaView)
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(Photo credit: JuliaView)
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(Photo credit: Julia View)
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(Photo credit: Julia View)
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(Photo credit: Megan H)
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(Photo credit: Megan H)
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(Photo credit: Megan H)
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(Photo Credit: Megan H)

Patronizing Uber Driver: “You be a Good Girl”

A man driving my Uber car today was insanely patronizing and treated my like a child. Have you ever had an experience like this? The man’s whole conversation involved mansplaining. I usually just brush that off. But at one point it rose to another level: In the conversation (if you can call it that since he was mostly talking at me) he was mansplaining to me how often people get pulled over and turned to point at me, like I was a child, and said, “Now don’t you get into trouble in your new car. You be a good girl.” Disgusting treatment.

Who is this guy? I’m sure he doesn’t treat men passengers like children the way he did to me. “You be a good girl.”Can you imagine a guy saying something like that to another man? I tried to fight it with kindness but my blood was boiling. Of course in hindsight you always figure out the right thing to say. Simply not smiling and being silent from his comment would have sufficed. Isn’t it amazing how we still have the impulse to be overly-nice, even when someone is talking down to us?  I wish I had said “Excuse me?” Or “How old do you think I am? What makes you think you can treat me like a child?”

Now here is the main point: When a man says to a women, especially a stranger, “you be a good girl” it makes my skin crawl. Because not only is it diminishing a full grown woman into a child, someone needing to be told what to do, but it also has a creepy sexual connotation. Argh it makes me sick. I am so disgusted I was treated this way. I gave him a rating of one star, i.e., a rating of “terrible” and wrote a complaint. Because I should not have to tolerate such infantilization and creepy treatment.

When people talk down to you, it gets under your skin. Sometimes you might not even realize why you felt uncomfortable. It is often challenging to articulate. Encounters where people treat you like a child, or treat you like your dumb, (like mansplaining) begin to chip away at your self-concept. If you treat someone a certain way for a long enough time, they will start to believe it themselves. Women have experienced this infantilization for most of history and I am sick and tired of it. 

The Worst has Happened: Trump is Here. Let’s Take a Stand in Whatever Way We Can

Shots were fired outside my house in my Montana neighborhood late Tuesday night and that’s when I knew Trump was officially the President of the United States…Celebratory bullets into the air. My friend, in another part of town heard some guns being fired there too.

This is a sad, sad day in world history. We have come so far in human rights and environmental protection and we must continue to fight for the greater good, even in the face of a Trump take-over. I really want to be hopeful that it won’t be too bad, and there certainly IS hope, especially if we continue to unite and stand together.

As we know, Hillary Clinton won by popular vote. Donald Trump only won due to the electoral college. (Perhaps we should look at changing the system in that regard…That’s how George W. Bush got into the presidency too.) But yes, Hillary Clinton did win by popular vote and not all hope is lost YET. There is a change.org petition going around directed to the electoral college saying, “You don’t have to cast your vote for Trump!” Already, one state has said they’re doing just that: Maryland officially became the first state to approve a plan to put their votes towards the candidate who won by popular vote and not Trump.

Remember, electors in the electoral college are not actually obligated to vote how their state did and can be urged by the people to vote for Hillary. Almost a million have already signed the petition. It’s a long shot, but if we spread this petition like wildfire, maybe we truly could prevent Trump from taking the presidential seat. Let’s rise to action! But we only have until December 19th, because that is when the college officially votes. Click here to access the petition. We must rally and protest. And remember, elections for other political positions are coming up again in two years: VOTE! Do not take your right to vote lightly.

One reason I think this Trump take-over has happened is because I heard a lot of this: “Oh, he’ll never actually run for president…Oh but he’ll never get the republican nomination…Oh but there’s no way he’ll actually win.” And here we are. People largely underestimated the monster and so did not feel compelled to get out and rally for Hillary. Coming up in this presidency, (if the electoral college does indeed vote him in) we have to be aware when people say, “Oh he’ll never actually pass that bill…” or “Oh he’ll never actually deport people.” Etc.

Let’s not be naive because Trump is not to be underestimated. Also, let’s face it, sexism, whether overt or subconscious, did play a major roll this election. Just an idea: If Trump were a female, there’s no way she would have been allowed to say the things that were said and to get where things are now; do you agree? 

Red president, red house, red senate. Certainly, it is true that not all republicans are so bad, (thankfully) but look at the news and see how this has already effected the people: You will see there has been a jump in violence against specific groups of people in the past 48 hours. And the KKK was spotted on a bridge in North Carolina just after a Trump victory was announced:

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Trump has posted what he will do in his first 100 days and it does not look good. Some of it may not even seem that bad to some people, but I would caution those who see it that way to be cautious of the rhetoric: Sometimes things that are horribly bad, are made to sound not so bad in rhetoric.

We must UNITE. We must continue to take a stand against misogyny, racism, and xenophobia of all types.

Start a rally in your community!! Show the world that this is not OK. Write a letter to the editor in your newspaper. Or just speak your mind between friends. Every little bit is powerful. Speak up, protest and stay safe. Because people like the KKK are coming out of the wood-works. And people like this too, are feeling free to spout their vile words:

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Here in Montana, we had a gathering of people last night. It was empowering and hopeful to see the compassionate people of my community come out and take a stand promoting acceptance and equal rights, and denouncing that which Trump stands for. Be strong fellow Americans, and fellow world-citizens, we will get through this.

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Photo credit: Juliaview

Creating Anti-Rape-Culture In the Midst of Yet Another Montana Rape

[Editors note: I wrote this in February]

I’ve got some ideas for creating anti-rape-culture, which I will describe in a moment. But right now, my blood is boiling and my stomach is wrenching in knots. I’m sure you’ve now heard of Missoula, Montana, the town where the mishandling of rape cases which took place, and drew attention to the national epidemic of campus rape. Well, another rape has taken place, this time on the iconic M trail overlooking the town on Tuesday [Feb 16.]

As Judith, a Fulbright Scholar teaching at the University of Montana simply put it, with regards to the fact that rape is more about power than sexual desire, and the fact that this took place in broad day-light on a busy hiking trail, “It’s as though this rapist is shoving it in our faces.”

The Kaimin, the University of Montana’s newspaper in Missoula, reported, “Three witnesses found the victim stumbling and bleeding from her head on the trail… The victim was off the mountain and en route to the hospital in an ambulance by 5:30 p.m.”

I have not felt this way before, but lately, when I’m in Missoula, this case has made me live fearfully. You can see the M trail from nearly everywhere in town. And now… I look at it differently. Whenever I drive under the shadow of the mountain where the trail is clearly displayed, these days, my stomach churns thinking about the man who raped a woman up there, over the city, in broad day-light. (I can hear contrarians saying, “but you weren’t there so you don’t know if it really happened.” To that I say, look at the research: 90-98% of rape allegations are found to be real,  meaning false allegations are, in fact, extremely rare.)

This is the very same town that John Kraukauer, author of Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven, wrote a book titled Missoula, about the rapes  that created a national outcry. And now our town is again in turmoil over another devastating case of a man raping someone. But remember, what’s worse, is that this isn’t a problem unique to Missoula: Horrifically, it is the norm. But now,  our town needs to become the model for how to make positive change. Already, Missoula has improved how it handles rape cases: Both qualitative and quantitative reports show major progress and the police department has vowed to not backslide. Our town has potential to be a role model for how to turn things around for the better. But here we are again.

The Missoulian, the city’s newspaper, stated the woman reported she was raped on the M trail by a male-acquaintance. A male-acquaintance. Time and time again we see this. The rapist is someone they know. Why? Well, because it is rooted in our grander society’s culture.

Rape culture can be seen in the fact that violence against women in porn has gone way up, and so has viewership, meaning more and more people are getting-off to watching women get beaten and forced to vomit. That is rape culture. We see rape culture in questions like “what was she wearing” and in the “pick-up artist” Daryush Valizadeh, who said, “Let’s make rape legal.”  We see rape culture in the fact that the phrase “non-consensual sex” exists. There is no such thing. She or he did not consent? That’s rape.

But another crucial, often overlooked, piece of ingrained rape-culture is the absence of the perpetrator in speech and text. We say things like, “a woman was raped,” instead of “a man raped a woman.” Did you notice a shift in conscious thought in that second phrase? It’s a seemingly subtle difference, but it gets into your mental process, which affects how you think, talk, and act on issues. In English and Spanish grammar, constructing a sentence by saying something WAS done to someone is called a no-fault construction. Think about that: Grammatically, no one was at fault. This is an act of making the victim very visible, while making the perpetrator invisible. I see it as part of the reason so many of the considered causes of rape aren’t directed at the rapist. Because the rhetorical power and blame cannot rest on the rapist, if they are rhetorically absent from the conversation.

To shift blame off of the victim, I think we need to use “perpetrator-first language” when discussing rape: So that perpetrators are blamed first instead of victims. As Camille Perry, Portland activist and musician said, when we were discussing the term, “This is not to say that our focus should drift from supporting the victim. On the contrary, this lingual shift helps spotlight the horrific person to person nature of these instances.”

News of the man raping a woman on the M trail came a day after other devastating news: Jordan Johnson, the rapist in one of the Missoula rape cases that garnered national attention, (and the rapist discussed in Krakaur’s book) has been awarded 245,000 dollars based on supposed “predetermined guilt.”  He’s been awarded money. Are you kidding me…

I would be speechless if I weren’t so incensed, angry, frustrated, and fed up with this rape-culture we are all surrounded by. When will it stop? How will it stop?

We need to construct anti-rape culture. Here are some ideas about how to accomplish this:

We all need:

  • To continue speaking up, rallying, blogging, fighting and having difficult conversations with people who don’t get it.
  • To use perpetrator-first language to further prevent victim-blaming from ensuing: So perpetrators are blamed first, not survivors.
  • To have laws prohibiting violence against women in porn and/or, at the very least, accessible porn sites that are not-violent-against-women. Is that too much to ask? (Because as it is now, it appears most accessible porn sites have violent, degrading porn interspersed with other porn.)
  • To demand judicial systems that adequately penalize the perpetrators of violence against women and a system that does not cause further harm to survivors.
  • To construct an educational system for current and future generations that teaches consent-culture and exemplifies a critical eye on media.
  • To require comprehensive sex education including the obligation of teaching consent.
  • To ensure boys are taught to internalize the fact that masculinity is not rooted in taking power.
  • To enable men to teach each other that nurturing isn’t a stigmatized, “female” trait, but an important, human quality.
  • To develop an educational system that teaches emotional literacy, media literacy, and empathy.
  • To ensure the media does not promote power-taking as the only acceptable masculine trait, and instead, ensure the media values the whole-man and exemplifies what it means to fully respect women as people.

What are other ways we can construct anti-rape culture? A thought provoking blog posted on Dating Tips for the Feminist Man says the opposite of rape-culture is “nurturance culture:”

“To heal rape culture, then, men [must] build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them…To completely transform this culture of misogyny, then, men must do more than ‘not assault.’ We must call on masculinity to become whole and nurturing of self and others, to recognize that attachment needs are healthy and normal and not ‘female,’ and thus to expect of men to heal themselves and others the same way we expect women to ‘be nurturers.’”

Rape is not an intrinsic human, or male, characteristic. It is (and was) not as common in all cultures. Education and media are essentially assimilation systems. They can either continue rape-culture and assimilate people into it blindly, or, rape-culture can be eliminated and a new, better path can be created for everyone. Education and media can and should be used to promote consent-culture.

Rape-culture is a multi-faceted and complex, ingrained problem, and therefore requires equally complex solutions. We can, and will create anti-rape culture. But it takes time.

What if Missoula changed from rape-culture to consent-culture? Could we show the world how to change things for the better? Missoula has improved it’s process for for victims after rape crisis and is turning the corner for improvement. Maybe this is the storm before the calm…. I just don’t know.

But I do know humankind is better than this. Just as other seemingly unstoppable horrors have been abolished in history, I believe we can also eradicate rape. I have to believe in a world without rape. We need a paradigm shift.

Behavior is learned and it can be unlearned too.

Light Up the Night

In the midst of John Krakauer’s successful book calling out the mishandling of rape cases in a small town called Missoula, I attended the 55349274e7d73.image_.jpgsurvivors-of-sexual violence rally in the same little town just a few months ago. The sad thing is, as Krakauer points out in his book, Missoula is not alone in its negligent actions and seeming-inability to properly prosecute rape cases and prevent sexual assault. In fact, Missoula is the norm.  (See graph below.)

While speaking to a Missoula officer about something unrelated to sexual violence, he off-handedly mentioned to me the subject of sexual assault and scoffed at how the media was apparently blowing it out of proportion. Wow. Now there’s a guy who doesn’t understand the horrific impact of rape and yet is someone who actually has the ability to do something about it. But that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m here to write about the inspiring event that took place a couple months ago, that has still left an impact on me, called Light Up the Night.

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Photo credit: Julia View

Supporters and survivors gathered at the University campus in front of Main Hall, the brick building and clock tower so famous in Missoula. People who attended the rally held up flashlights in support, and flickers of blue string-lights dotted  the crowed. I listened as resilient speakers’ voices echoed across the campus and reverberated against the brick buildings of the University of Montana. One  woman who spoke was a victim of abuse since the age of five up until she was in her twenties. She tentatively shared with the crowd that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and had an episode before coming to speak tonight. (PTSD is scarily common: 81% of women survivors report short-term or long-term symptoms of PTSD.) She addressed fellow survivors by saying, in order to heal, “kiss those scars.”

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Graph credit: Rainn.org

After the gathering, I hiked up the M, a trail that zig-zags up a hillside overlooking the university campus and city of Missoula. It was dark and I thought about how lucky I am to be an ally of survivors of sexual violence, and not be on the other side, plagued by trauma that would leave me scared to go out, alone, on a dark trail. The lights were on at the football stadium and they blanketed the dark night in florescent white, leaving everything else in the city in shadow. I thought about just how horrifically fitting that was: How football was in the spotlight while everything else was left in shadow. The football team that had created a national outcry with the gang rape their teammates had committed, had things back to life as usual, practicing in the glow of stadium lights, while survivors tried to shed their own small light just a few blocks away at the rally.

As long as society permits a “boys-will-be-boys” mentality, then women will be blamed for their own rape and will remain in the shadow of the football stadium lights. As long as our society permits sexual predatory behaviors, then sexual violence won’t go away. But we have already made huge steps, as a society, towards change. Because we are going forward and calling out the problem of sexual violence and saying “no more.” We are rallying, we are speaking, we are blogging, we are having conversations at parties, and we are laying the frame-work for valuing the whole girl and woman, (as well as valuing the whole boy and man) instead of just valuing those stereotypical gender binaries of football player and cheerleader. We are revolutionizing this dark and scary place we call our world and lighting up the night, one little flashlight at a time.

I would like to leave you with one of the poems that was read at the Light Up the Night Rally, written and presented by Mariah McGarvey:

 

I reach for her hand; she pulls away.

I don’t know how to help her.

I hurt every time I see her

Flinch away from strangers.

 

From MEN.

I know.

 

Yes, I know, she didn’t have to tell me.

She tries to keep your secret,

but I’ve known her far too long

for her to ever hide it.

 

I wasn’t at that party.

I wasn’t there for her.

But you knew that, didn’t you?

And so you followed after.

 

You shadowed her that night.

Stalked her, one might say.

And when that moment came?

She couldn’t run away.

 

We all know the symptoms.

We’ve all watched the news.

And I wish I could pin down

exactly what drug you used.

 

Now they’re talking ’bout her hemline,

but you and I know better.

It wasn’t about the sex,

it’s all about the power.

 

You think you’re safe.

You know she won’t speak out.

But you’ve missed one tiny detail:

I, too, have a mouth.

 

I know about that party,

and I will scream it out.

It’s your fault, not hers:

she was completely passed out.

 

So let me just say,

for those who still don’t get it:

she would not, could not, DID NOT

ask for it.

 

-Mariah McGarvey, 2015.

 

 

 

Planned Parenthood Vigil

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Photo credit: Julia View

To commemorate the people who died in the shooting that took place at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, (PPRM) the Planned Parenthood of Montana hosted a vigil. As one man who attended mentioned, we need to not only grieve for the victims of the violence, but also, we need to take action in the political process, to ensure human rights for bodily autonomy are not threatened. Only some twenty people turned out on the blistering-cold Montana night, but I know so many more who were there in spirit. I was glad to be a part of this vigil.

A Coyote Columbus Story

51-VsdrdEzL._SX391_BO1,204,203,200_For one of my graduate courses, we had a wonderful woman named Kate come in and give a presentation about incorporating Native American traditions and perspectives into the curriculum to create a better balanced and multicultural education for all our students. Although she is originally from a tribe in Alaska, she has become an expert and resource about tribes in Montana and gives presentations to students and teachers and has been doing her job for years and years. She introduced us to a wonderful book titled “A Coyote Columbus Story” that is meant for children and demonstrates a different perspective, not only about Columbus, but about the character of Coyote, who is usually a male, but in this story, she is a female coyote. Kate mentioned she likes this story, specifically because Coyote is a female. In it, it also shows other animals as females in fun ways. Like the moose who wears curlers in her hair. It made me think about how children are so used to seeing character animals represented as males, that some don’t even realize that all animals consist of males and females until they are older.

I recall some former kindergarten students of mine who were shocked when I told them ALL dinosaurs come in male and female varieties. They had assumed that dinosaurs were only male. This is clearly a terrible oversight that students are being taught/not taught otherwise, because it is a clear fallacy, but this misconception also presents females as “not-normal”, and not a complete part of the everyday world. It sets females as the other, a misconception we need to correct by introducing them to books like this.

What is especially interesting about “A Coyote and Columbus Story” is the conversation that ensued with a classmate of mine afterwards. He said he thought the story was biased presenting Columbus as a villain. I had to point out that the, so-called, ‘normal perspective’ on Columbus is, if anything, way more biased, considering Columbus was actually a controversial figure because he raped and pillaged the local people and used them as slaves. I too was a product of my education with regards to these facts until recently, when I attended a rally, calling for Indigenous Day instead of Columbus day.

I recommend this book for the different perspective it offers about Columbus and for the fact that it shows animals as females in books.